It was a family activity. That’s what they loved most about skiing and sailing. It wasn’t about winning anything. It was about sharing great moments. —Maxime Dufour-Lapointe
SALT LAKE CITY — Maxime Dufour-Lapointe smiles as she hunches her shoulders to show how cramped those early-morning rides to a Quebec ski resort were when she was a small child. “Both weekend days, my parents would put us in the blue Jetta, all of us being squeezed, at 6 in the morning, so we could get the first run,” said the oldest of Johane Dufour and Yves Lapointe’s three daughters. “Their passion was for sailing.”
Her sister Chloe interjects, “That’s why we’re all winter babies, so that by summer, we’re all old enough to go on the boat.”
And then Maxime finishes the sentiment, “They were just active people.”
Which is why, when some of their friends talked about skiing, the couple decided that would be the perfect way to enjoy the beauty of the outdoors until they could get back on a boat.
They couldn’t have imagined that finding ways to play outside with their daughters — Maxime, 25, Chloe, 23, and Justine, 20 — would lead to two trips to the Olympics, two Olympic medals, world championship medals, and hardware from countless World Cup victories in mogul skiing.
The sisters discussed the way their relationship enhances their success Sunday afternoon at a Salt Lake City hotel. They enjoyed an afternoon of shopping after two days of World Cup competition at Deer Valley, where Justine won gold in dual moguls on Saturday and silver on Friday. Chloe earned bronze on Friday, while Maxime finished fifth in both races.
Their unique journey began when Maxime was about 10 or 11. She saw a friend competing in moguls and asked her parents about giving it a try.
At first, they were hesitant.
“Their first concern about me doing freestyle, about getting into a club, was that I wasn’t going to be doing it with them,” she said. “It was a family activity. That’s what they loved most about skiing and sailing. It wasn’t about winning anything. It was about sharing great moments.”
The couple simply devised a strategy that allowed their daughters to follow their individual dreams while remaining steadfastly committed to the family unit. In doing so, they’ve continued to share great moments, but often in very unexpected ways.
Some of those moments were shared with the world — Justine’s Olympic gold and Chloe’s Olympic silver, for example. Others have been relished privately, like when the family took two months to sail from their Canadian home to New York.
“We took a lot of values and perspective from our parents,” Maxime said. “They are people who love challenges. They have always chased their own ideals, their own ideas.”
And then Justine adds, “My favorite quote of my mom is, ‘When everyone else goes right, go left. Always create your own path.’ That’s what our parents taught us.”
Embracing that which makes them unique, while at the same time holding on to the strength that comes from being a family, is essentially the secret to the sisters’ skiing success. Yes, they’re talented. But they also have each other — and that is no small thing.
The women challenge each other; they confide in each other; they draw confidence from each other; they inspire each other; they help each other keep races — and life — in perspective.
“We feel lucky, but in a way, we don’t know anything else,” Justine said. “This is our life. This is normal.”
The travel associated with World Cup competition that spans the globe can be grueling and lonely.
“Sometimes it’s really hard,” Chloe said. “You miss home. You miss a hug from your parents.” And then Maxime adds, “It’s like being at home to have each other.”
In fact, they said they began embracing every aspect of a professional athlete’s chaotic and demanding life — including offseason training — when they were able to experience it together.
“I think when I was 17 or 18, I would wait for them to finish high school, and then pick them up and drive to the gym to train together," said Maxime.
Adds Chloe, “This is where we started to like it more. You have someone to push you. It’s motivating. To be alone in the gym, sometimes it’s hard.” A common assumption is that somehow competing against each other would spawn friction or conflict and create distance between the siblings. But Justine dismisses that idea with what seems like an obvious answer to them.
“When you love someone, why don’t you be happy for them when they do good?” she said. “Be there for support when it’s not going well. That’s the key of relationships.”
Maxime, who sits between her sisters wrapped in a small blanket, said they navigate this successfully because of how their parents framed it when they were small.
“We were exposed to competition together at a very young age,” Maxime said. “My mom did the best job explaining this to us. It’s our own competition, and we can actually help each other. There is no competition between us because it is an individual sport.”
Chloe talks about how her father would create small competitions when they were on the boat together like which girl could “dive the longest.” “It was always fun and healthy,” Chloe said.
Adds Maxime, “He didn’t treat us like princesses. He’s a big Papa Bear and he would protect us from anything, but he always treated us — almost like we were boys.”
The girls laugh, and then almost simultaneously tell a story of being small, in a life jacket, and having their father toss them into the water.
“He’d say, 'Was it fun?’" Maxime said imitating her father. “And of course you say, ‘Yeah! I want to do it again!’”
While their mother helped them navigate the complexities of competition, including emotion and mental stress, their father always encouraged them to embrace challenges.
Maxime said they’ve all had those “teenage” moments when they challenged the values being encouraged by their parents. But spending winters in a small cabin and summers on a small boat didn’t allow any issues to fester or distances to grow.
“Another quote,” Justine said smiling, “our mom always told us, ‘You can have ex-friends. You cannot have ex-sisters. And there is a rule, follow them.'”
Whether it’s work or fun, they share everything, even while acknowledging and embracing that which makes each of them unique.
“We all put our little piece of personality out there,” Justine said. “That makes us a good cocktail.”
They laugh as they talk about how they help each other with balance and perspective — even on a stage like the Olympics.
“It gives a little sense of normal in the big, fluffy dream,” she said waving her hands. “I saw the Olympics as something I can’t be enough prepared for. And you can’t. It’s too big.”
So they focused on small things. At the games, they spent each night at Canada House stretching, enjoying a hot cup of tea and journaling. When Maxime and Justine first saw all of the free food and treats offered to athletes, Chloe, who’d competed in the 2010 Games, reminded them not to deviate from their training diet until after the competition.
“There is always at least one that sees the right direction and brings us back,” Maxime said. “You can’t always see straight on your own.”
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